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The 5 Biggest Causes Of Stress & Anxiety — And How To Handle Them Without Losing Your Cool

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With the rise in popularity (and availability) of products and practices that promise to keep you feeling calm amid the most stressful situations, more and more people are finding it easier to be open about their struggles without the usual stigma. And having these solutions (everything from meditation to seeking professional medical help) is a big help — but so is being able to identify your triggers and potentially preventing your panic in the first place. Experts have identified some of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety, plus they've got some suggestions on what to do when they pop up.

A recent study by CBD oil company Endoca polled 2,000 Americans, 43 percent of which reported suffering from severe anxiety. And the holidays can be a time when it's at an all-time high. Between the jam-packed schedule of social events, time spent with loved ones you might not always agree with, or the tendency to blow your budget, there can be a lot to stress about. And while you may already have some tools in place to manage it — including working out, changes to your diet, or seeing a therapist, it may also help to know what your triggers are, so you can avoid them or hopefully keep you from spiraling.

According to the study, the top 10 causes of anxiety and stress included meeting new people, politics, romantic partners, public speaking, and large crowds, but the top five probably hit even closer to home. You can learn more about those ahead, as well as some advice from New York-based mental health counselor Victoria Tarbell that might just help you enjoy your holidays — and all the days following — so much more.

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Work

With modern technology, it can often be hard not to take work home with you. To help manage this, Tarbell suggests first asking yourself if the time you spend thinking about it when you're off-duty is actually productive. "For most, the answer will be a big nope," she says. "All it does is create additional worry and take away your precious time and mental energy — and ironically, this may make you less productive when you’re actually at work." A good first step, according to the counselor, is setting boundaries, like turning off work email notifications when you're off the clock.

Social Gatherings

Social anxiety is very real — and the holidays tend to make it even harder for those who struggle with it. If you already know that social situations make you feel stressed or uncomfortable, Tarbell says that bringing a friend along to those events can be a kind of security blanket. "Certainly make the effort to branch out (if you want), but having your safe person present can help take some of the edge off," she explains. "Also, it may not hurt to have an 'escape plan' of sorts: Only pull that ripcord if absolutely necessary as avoidance can deepen the roots of anxiety. That said, sometimes just knowing that you have an out, if needed, can help relieve some of those uneasy feelings."

Money

It's understandable that overspending or not knowing if you'll have enough to cover bills can be a huge source of stress — but worrying won't make the problem go away. Instead, as Tarbell recommends, try getting to the root of the issue (instead of turning a blind eye to it) and facing it head-on with a plan in place. "It may be helpful to first identify where your money anxiety comes from. Is there trouble with impulse control around spending? Is there shame connected to your financial status? Do you operate with a scarcity mindset?" she asks. "Understanding the roots of our money anxiety will help us determine our personal best paths for managing it. Schedule some time to sit down with your finances to have a better understanding of what’s happening for you. This will also give you a space to get intentional around budgeting, if that’s a need."

Health Issues

With so much (true and false) information available at your fingertips, those with anxiety around help can often make it worse for themselves by consulting the web, instead of a trained professional. "Stay away from Google," Tarbell suggests for anyone who's tendency is to immediately hit the search engine. "Leave your wellness to your healthcare team. It may help ease some anxiety to go to your appointments prepared with questions that you have about your condition or treatment plan. Also, if a point comes when you don’t feel that your needs are being met, it’s okay to look for new providers."

Conflict

Conflict can take many forms, but a common theme is the feeling that the stability of a connection is threatened. "Remind yourself that your anxious response is natural," Tarbell says. "From there, if you know that you’ll be approaching a difficult conversation, it may help to write out what you’d like to say beforehand. This will help you organize your thoughts and feelings around the conflict, giving you a better chance of clear, effective communication. Also, do your best to truly listen to what those who you’re in conflict with have to say. When we’re able to convey that we’re invested in hearing others and considering their point of view, there’s a much greater chance that we will be heard too!"